One player more than any other on the pitch last night would have grown up dreaming of scoring in a cup semi-final at Hampden with Rangers involved. Lewis Ferguson would never have believed then that when that moment came it would be to skewer the hopes that his boyhood Ibrox club had of ending seven years without major silverware.
The Aberdeen midfielder’s crashing header late on from a corner that settled a stodgy Betfred Cup semi-final smashed through a sense of lineage in his footballing family. The son of former Rangers midfielder Derek, pictured, and the nephew of former Ibrox captain Barry, the 19-year-old seemed to be following the blood line when he joined the club’s youth set-up as a nine-year-old... only to be released five years later. It was his subsequent development at Hamilton Accies that brought a move to Pittodrie in the summer.
“They [Rangers] said I wasn’t good enough for them so I took that on the chin and I moved on and the likes of my dad, and in particular George Cairns – head of youth at Hamilton Accies – sparked my career. George turned me into a real player and always gave me confidence when I needed it so he’s played a big part in my career so far,” said Ferguson as he basked in the biggest moment of his professional existence that came courtesy of only his second senior goal, following his ripper in the Europa League qualifiers against Burnley.
“It was hard being told I wasn’t good enough but it happens to a lot of boys who get released at a young age and that just gave me the motivation to prove them wrong. I can’t really remember who made the decision – I was just a young boy – but my dad got a phone call.
“There’s no secret that my dad and my uncle played for Rangers and are massive Rangers fans. My brothers are Rangers fans too and half of my friends were in the wrong end today. We’ve been having banter because they are huge Rangers men and they are in the stands watching me play against them. I’m waiting on texts and phone calls from them slaughtering me. But it was good to get the goal to settle the semi-final.”
Now Ferguson is looking forward to uniting his family when the Betfred Cup final against Celtic rolls around on 2 December.
“My dad told me when I was released that that wasn’t the end of it and I had to go away and prove those people wrong who felt I wasn’t good enough,” he said. “That’s just what I’m trying to do – I’m just trying to be my best.
“There was a lot of talk about what side my dad would be in but he was in the Aberdeen section. He’ll always support me and I’m just delighted to put a smile on his face. There certainly won’t be any debate over who he and all my pals will be supporting in the final…”
The failure of Steven Gerrard’s side to reach that decider represents a thumping blow that James Tavernier did not attempt to downplay. A sixth straight defeat for the Ibrox club at Hampden, it allowed Aberdeen to register their first victory over one of the Glasgow big two in a neutral cup tie since a League Cup semi-final success over Rangers way back in October 1995.
“It’s a new team so for a lot of the boys this is their first defeat at Hampden,” said the Rangers captain. “But I can only apologise on behalf of the lads today to the fans watching the game. It’s not good enough for a Rangers team not to be in the final.
“We’re really disappointed and we’ve now got a point to prove against Kilmarnock on Wednesday.
“Aberdeen only had one corner in the second half and to concede from it was poor.” Rangers, who hemmed Derek McInnes’ men for long periods of the second half but proved toothless without the suspended Alfredo Morelos or the cup-tied Kyle Lafferty, had 12 goal attempts but only one on target.
“We’ve got to have that cutting edge in the final third. We expect to test the keeper a bit more,” said Tavernier. “You obviously want to put the ball in the back of the net but we didn’t create that today.
“It’s obviously a massive miss to be without Alfredo. He is our talisman up front and scores a lot of goals and assists a lot of goals.”